"Do you, Marian Thomas, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?" the old preacher asked her. The church shone. Flowers in full bloom were everywhere. Her family and friends were behind her. It was a perfect spring morn, and here she was dressed in white, standing before God, pledging her heart, her body, and her soul to the man she loved, Dominic Ashcroft.
He was here beside her, holding her hand. His usually tousled black hair was combed, and he looked so good in the tux he was wearing. His dark eyes smiled at her. They were filled with love.
Marian awoke in the dark. She reached over for her husband. Her hand did not meet flesh. The space in her heart that had for those few minutes been filled broke once again. Burying her face in his pillow, she wept.
It was snowing the next morning. The air was bitter and frozen. She dressed entirely in black, as she was supposed to do. All the folks looked at her with such pity. Yesterday, she'd had to go into town to make arrangements for the funeral. There had been no one else to do it. There was no one else. She was alone, all alone.
In a haze, she grabbed her keys and drove herself along the dismal road to the funeral parlor. She pulled in and got out of the car, but she was nearly blind from the tears she was fighting. She dragged herself up the front steps to the door. The brass door handle was cold in her palm, as her fingers tightened around it. Her hand faltered. She drew in a ragged breath, her lungs filling with icy mountain air.
She shut her eyes against the gray sky, the miserable lonely world. She closed her eyes and saw him. He smiled at her and wiped away all her pain and sorrow.
Opening her eyes, she found the courage to open the door. She passed through the entry room and through sliding wooden doors. The coffin was at the front of the room. Her breath caught on the lump in her throat. Forcing her feet forward, she made her way past the folding chairs full of sympathetic people. Their eyes were filled with pity. She hated it so much.
As she drew near, her husband's face came into view. There was no color in his skin now. His gorgeous eyes were hidden behind his closed eyelids. She stared down at him, unable to move, unable to breathe.
"Get out. All of you get out!" she screamed. The whole room gaped at her in shock.
"Get out!" her heart pounded, her breath came fast. People began to leave, grabbing their purses and their children.
She threw a vase of funeral flowers at the backs of the retreating townspeople. It smashed against the wooden doors as they slid shut. She screamed aloud, and she sobbed, and she broke everything she could reach. Marian let loose her rage, her despair, her bitterness, her broken heart.
When it seemed she had exhausted herself, one kindly soul opened the door to check on her. The floor was strewn with flowers and water and broken glass. The chairs were all over the place, on their sides, upside down. She found Marian on her knees beside the coffin, one hand raised above her gripping the side of the casket until her knuckles went white.
"Don't leave me." She heard her whisper hoarsely. "Oh God, Dominic don't leave me."
Marian felt someone put their arms around her. She turned her head. It was the old storekeeper's wife.
"I can't let him go."
"You must. Time will heal you, my dear. Come now, we must finish what we have come here to do."
"Come, my dear." The old woman stroked her hair.
Marian nodded. The old woman helped her to her feet, and beckoned for the undertakers to come in. They closed the top of the casket and lifted it onto their shoulders. Slowly, they carried it through the flowers and shattered glass, out of the building to the hearse.
A long trail of vehicles followed behind it as it wound its way through the tiny mountain town to the graveyard. Everyone had always loved Dominic. Everyone gathered around the six foot hole in the ground. The preacher spoke and they lowered her husband into that dark abyss. She flinched as the dirt hit the top of the coffin.
One by one, the townspeople left, winding their way between the tall, crumbling tombstones, putting up umbrellas as rain began to fall. The winding road led out through the pines.
She stayed at the cemetery long after everyone had left. She stayed standing next to the mound of freshly dug dirt, as the rain gradually soaked her.
Days passed. Marian endured the steady stream of visitors bringing casseroles and condolences. Her nerves were on edge. They had been since Dominic had drowned that night in the river. She couldn't bring herself to eat anything. All she did was drink for the pain.
A week after the funeral, she found another person on her doorstep holding another dish of food. Numbly, she let them in. She listened to their condolences and their empathy and she showed them out. After pouring herself a shot of whiskey, she swallowed it in one throw. Dominic had always liked whiskey. Her head was full of pictures of him. There was a storm twisting and churning inside of her. She thrashed wildly in the fading light. The shot glass crashed against the wall as the pictures on the mantle fell through space. Glass shattered. His picture lay on the floor in the broken glass. She brushed it gently off and clutched it to her heart. Tears would not come no matter how loud she screamed.
Leaving the house, she walked the distance to the little cemetery.
Marian stretched her body out over his grave. Somehow, she felt closer to him. "How am I going to make it without you, Dominic?"
The ground was wet with melted snow. The sun had been brighter today, the winter birds had sung sweeter this morning, but her heart had ignored this all. She only knew that half her soul had died and laid in the cold earth beneath her.
For two years, Marian wore her widow's weeds. One day, she found that she had laughed. She was consumed with guilt for her love would never laugh again. As was her custom, she made her way to the graveyard. It was spring again. Grass and flowers had grown over his grave. She stood beside t.
Her heart was not so heavy anymore. She closed her eyes and breathed in the mountain air. Life was worth living once more.
"I love you, my darling. I'll see you again soon."
And spring brought new life to the mountains.